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Susan Hill

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Susan Hill

BornSusan Elizabeth Hill
(1942-02-05) 5 February 1942 (age 82)
Scarborough, North Yorkshire, England
Alma materKing's College London
GenreFiction, non-fiction
Notable worksThe Woman in Black
The Mist in the Mirror
I'm the King of the Castle
SpouseStanley Wells
(m. 1975; sep. 2011)
PartnerBarbara Machin (2013–2016)

Dame Susan Elizabeth Hill, Lady Wells DBE (born 5 February 1942) is an English author of fiction and non-fiction works. Her novels include The Woman in Black, which has been adapted for stage and screen, The Mist in the Mirror, and I'm the King of the Castle, for which she received the Somerset Maugham Award in 1971. She also won the Whitbread Novel Award in 1972 for The Bird of Night, which was also shortlisted for the Booker Prize.

She was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2012 Birthday Honours[1][2] and Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in the 2020 Birthday Honours,[3][4] both for services to literature.

Early life and education[edit]

Hill was born in Scarborough, North Yorkshire. Her home town was later referred to in her novel A Change for the Better (1969) and in some short stories like Cockles and Mussels.

She attended Scarborough Convent School, where she became interested in theatre and literature. Her family left Scarborough in 1958 and moved to Coventry where her father worked in car and aircraft factories. Hill states[5] that she attended a girls' grammar school, Barr's Hill. Her fellow pupils included Jennifer Page, the first Chief Executive of the Millennium Dome. At Barrs Hill, she took A levels in English, French, History, and Latin, proceeding to an English degree at King's College London.[6]

Writing career[edit]

By the time she took her A levels, she had already written her first novel, The Enclosure, which was published by Hutchinson in her first year at university.[7]

Her next novel Gentleman and Ladies was published in 1968 and was runner-up for the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize.[8] This was followed in quick succession by A Change for the Better, I'm the King of the Castle, The Albatross and other stories, Strange Meeting, The Bird of Night, A Bit of Singing and Dancing and In the Springtime of the Year, all written and published between 1968 and 1974.

In 2008, Hill began a series of crime novels featuring detective Simon Serrailler.


In the 1990s, Hill founded her own publishing company, Long Barn Books,[9] which has published two Simon Serrailler short stories and The Magic Apple Tree, all by Susan Hill, as well as The Dream Coat by Adele Geras, Colouring In by Angela Huth and Counting My Chickens by Deborah Devonshire.[10]

Style and adaptations[edit]

Hill's novels are written in a descriptive gothic style, especially her ghost story The Woman in Black, published in 1983. She has expressed an interest in the traditional English ghost story, which relies on suspense and atmosphere to create its impact, similar to the classic ghost stories by Montague Rhodes James and Daphne du Maurier.[11] The novel was turned into a play in 1987 which ran until 2022 in the West End of London. It was also made into a television film in 1989, and a film by Hammer Film Productions in 2012; the latter, starring Daniel Radcliffe, was the most successful British horror film in 32 years as of 2013.[12] Hill wrote another ghost story with similar ingredients, The Mist in the Mirror in 1992, and wrote the screenplay for a sequel to The Woman in Black film in 2012, that film being released in 2014.

She wrote a sequel to Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca entitled Mrs de Winter in 1993.

Personal life[edit]

Hill was engaged to David Lepine, organist at Coventry Cathedral, but he died of a heart attack in 1972.[13] In 1975, she married Shakespeare scholar and professor Stanley Wells, and they moved to Stratford upon Avon. Their first daughter, author Jessica Ruston, was born in 1977, and their third daughter, Clemency, was born in 1985. A middle daughter, Imogen, was born prematurely, and died at the age of five weeks.[12] Wells was chairperson of the Shakespeare's Birthplace Trust for 20 years. The couple later lived in Chipping Campden.[12]

In 2013, it was reported that Hill had left her husband and moved in with Barbara Machin, creator of Waking The Dead, who adapted Hill's crime fiction novels featuring detective Simon Serrailler and Hill's The Small Hand.[12] However, she said that she was 'still married' to Wells in 2015.[14] In 2016, Machin left Hill for comedian Rhona Cameron.[citation needed]



Short story collections[edit]


  • The Custodian, Covent Garden Press 1972[17]

Non fiction[edit]

  • The Magic Apple Tree, (autobiography) Hamish Hamilton, 1982; Penguin 1985; Long Barn Books 1998
  • Through the Kitchen Window, Illustrated by Angela Barrett, Hamish Hamilton 1984; Penguin 1986
  • Through the Garden Gate, (Illustrated by Angela Barrett), Hamish Hamilton, 1986
  • The Lighting of the Lamps, (Collected pieces) Hamish Hamilton, 1987
  • Shakespeare Country, (photographs by Talbot and Whiteman) Michael Joseph, 1987
  • The Spirit of the Cotswolds, (photographs by Nick Meers), Michael Joseph, 1988
  • Family, (Autobiography) Michael Joseph, 1989
  • Reflections from a Garden, (Illustrated by Ian Stephens; written with Rory Stuart) Pavilion Books 1995
  • Howards End is on the Landing Profile Books, 2009
  • Jacob's Room is Full of Books: A Year of Reading , Profile Books, 2017


  • The Cold Country and Other Plays for Radio (includes The End of Summer, Lizard in the Grass, Consider the Lilies, Strip Jack Naked); London, BBC Publications, 1975.
  • Lizard in the Grass, broadcast 1971; produced Edinburgh, 1988
  • On the Face of It, broadcast 1975; published in Act 1, edited by David Self and Ray Speakman, London, Hutchinson, 1979
  • The Ramshackle Company (for children); produced London, 1981
  • Chances, broadcast 1981; produced London, 1983.

Children's stories[edit]

  • One Night at a Time, Hamish Hamilton 1984; Puffin 1986
  • Mother's Magic, Hamish Hamilton 1985; Puffin 1986
  • Can it be True?; (illustrated by Angela Barrett) Hamish Hamilton 1987; Puffin 1988; Walker Books 1990
  • Susie's Shoes, (illustrated by Priscilla Lamont), Hamish Hamilton 1989; Puffin 1990
  • Stories from Codling Village, (illustrated by Caroline Crosland) Walker Books 1990
  • I've Forgotten Edward, Walker Books and Sainsburys 1990
  • I Won't Go there Again, Walker Books 1990
  • Pirate Poll (illustrated by Priscilla Lamont), Hamish Hamilton 1991; Puffin 1992
  • The Glass Angels, Walker Books 1991, Paperback 1993
  • Beware, Beware, (illustrated by Angela Barrett), Walker Books 1993, Paperback 1994
  • King of King's, (illustratedb by John Lawrence), Walker Books 1994
  • The Christmas Collection: An Anthology (illustrated: John Lawrence), Walker Books 1995
  • The Battle for Gullywith, 2008



  1. ^ "No. 60173". The London Gazette (Supplement). 16 June 2012. p. 7.
  2. ^ "CBE". BBC News. 15 June 2012. Archived from the original on 21 April 2019. Retrieved 15 June 2012.
  3. ^ "No. 63135". The London Gazette (Supplement). 10 October 2020. p. B9.
  4. ^ "Birthday Honours 2020: Marcus Rashford and Joe Wicks honoured alongside key workers". BBC News. 10 October 2020. Archived from the original on 12 October 2020. Retrieved 10 October 2020.
  5. ^ "About Susan - Autobiography of author Susan Hill". Archived from the original on 29 May 2008. Retrieved 28 July 2008.
  6. ^ "Biography (part 2)". susan-hill.com. Archived from the original on 29 May 2008. Retrieved 10 March 2013.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  7. ^ Freeman, Hadley (18 October 2003). "Cotswold chameleon". The Guardian (UK). Guardian News and Media Ltd. Archived from the original on 24 March 2005. Retrieved 20 March 2008.
  8. ^ Foreword to A Change for the Better, Penguin 1980 edition.
  9. ^ Hill, Susan: The Beacon, dust jacket, Chatto & Windus, 2008.
  10. ^ "About Long Barn Books". longbarnbooks.co.uk. Archived from the original on 1 September 2018. Retrieved 13 March 2019.
  11. ^ "The Woman in Black". susanhill.org.uk. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 14 January 2016.
  12. ^ a b c d "Husband of The Woman in Black author Susan Hill exits, stage left". The Daily Telegraph. 8 December 2013. Archived from the original on 27 February 2015. Retrieved 7 March 2015.
  13. ^ "The author of the most celebrated ghost story of modern times talks about wickedness, her dark new novella – and why she would never read the latest Man Booker winner", The Guardian, 25 Oct 2013 Archived 25 August 2016 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved 2016-07-03.
  14. ^ Hill, Susan. "Twitter post". Twitter. Archived from the original on 5 March 2016. Retrieved 5 December 2015.
  15. ^ "About us". Archived from the original on 24 September 2015. Retrieved 3 October 2023.
  16. ^ DennisonMathew, Mathew (26 October 2013). "trapped by the black hole". The Times.
  17. ^ "The Custodian by Susan Hill". Archived from the original on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 3 October 2023.

External links[edit]